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Le Den's Profile

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Opentable Irritating Telephone Confirmations

From the business side of things, so many people blow off reservations that we have to try and confirm as many as possible so we can accomodate other guests who want to dine with us. The longer a reservations goes unconfirmed (meaning a message was left on voice mail, no answer or the increasingly popular "wrong number") the more likely we are to over book that time period. We also look at reservation histories (OT lets us keep complete records--no shows, cancellations, visits etc) when deciding how long to hold a non-confirmed reservation.

If you don't want the restaurant calling to confirm your reservation, call yourself, first thing in the am to confirm before your very busy day begins.

Lastly, if you are rude to the Maitre'd when he calls to confirm, you can be sure that it will be noted in your reservation history and you stand a better chance of not getting a prime table.

Dec 19, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

How do you like a restaurant wine list to be laid out?

My thoughts:

I don't really care how a list is presented as long as the theme is consistent and fact-checked. Each wine director has his/her own theory and idea and they are welcome to them, just don't be lazy about it. That said, I find wine lists where price is the first consideration (cheapest to most expensive) to be insulting and lazy.

Vintage is of less import to me than varietal (accuracy wise), (vintages change, give your man a break that he may have sold the last of the 96 and has moved on to the 97). Suppliers are also notorious (especially here in NYC) for sending the wrong vintage which may not always have been caught. Just send it back and order your back up choice if you don't like the change. (Always have a back up choice.)

Wine lists that fall into the "iconic" category also bore me. If you want my money, at least put some work into finding some interesting wines that actually go with the food your chef has created. A few big names thrown in for those who buy by name and rating are fine, but I like to see things that are different.

Too many break downs become confusing. Keep the sub-zones, sub-regions to a minimum so the principal idea of the wine stays the focus. Wine geeks will find the details, but its important that all your guests feel comfortable ordering wine.

Oct 12, 2008
Le Den in Wine

Waive the corkage???

It is very rare that a restaurant with even a moderate wine list will not charge a corkage fee if you bring your own. I wouldn't even expect it to be listed on the wine menu, but expect it to be the rule. You should ask in advance if there is a corkage before bringing your own and also ask if the wine you choose to bring is already available on their list.

If a restaurant has their menu on their own web site, they should also have their wine list posted (or a good representation).

Just because they were out of your first choice does not mean you should get a pass on corkage. I would have gone back to their list for a second choice of my own and if there was nothing on the list I liked, I would accept the corkage and then decide if the other attributes of the restaurant merited my return.

As for having the corkage waived, it depends on the bottle you are bringing in. If it is truly a rare wine that the restaurant would not have been able to provide and adds glamour to the restaurant setting, and you offer tastes to the sommelier, server etc, they may consider waiving, but otherwise, I would expect to always pay a corkage fee.

Oct 02, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Should a diner be entitled to tour the kitchen?

No. Unless the restaurant offers, you should not expect a visit to the kitchen.

Sep 25, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Location for Upscale Birthday Party?

Thats a pretty low budget for that number of people and open bar. For most restaurants and many clubs, 110 people is a buyout and they will want a minimum of appx $110 per. You might find a club that will do it early before regular business. But $65 is usually the price for the open bar itself with food additional ($55 food or so for the same period of time.) (3 hours at $65 is $22 an hour or 2 drinks--not a great margin). Plus you will need to think of tax and tip. If $65 is inclusive, its only about $50 per person you are looking to spend on food and drink ($50 is $16 an hour or just over two beers per average). I know 7K to 8K sounds like a lot for a party, but broken down, its not a lot for a business to feed/sate that many people, staff etc. etc. Think about a beer and wine only bar, or cash bar while you provide the food. Happy hunting.

Sep 15, 2008
Le Den in Manhattan

Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence ...

I doubt I would ever know it was a fake restaurant.

If I was in Milan, I would go to the concierge at my hotel with a short list of restaurants I was interested in and ask if they knew any of them, had recommendations etc. and take it from there. I would let the concierge make the reservation at my final choice (or plan B if A is unavailable), so I would never actually know the restaurant didn't exist because I would never have a reservation there. If I lived in Milan and tried to find it, I would assume it had either never opened or had closed quickly and perhaps report to my source that it didn't exist. It wouldn't put my knickers in a twist.

The only time I set my heart on going to a specific restaurant is when I have word of mouth, or far more info than just a listing in a magazine, a web site or such. If I was trying to make the booking myself and kept getting a phone message saying they were closed, I would book somewhere else and again, never know it was a fake. This fakery would never alter my life.

Considering how much trouble Goldstein went to make this scam work, I can't help but feel he was worried that WS would find out and block the inclusion. I guarantee if the location of the fake restaurant had been a US city, he would have been found out.

If every magazine, newspaper etc was raked over the coals every time it was scammed, we would spend more time reading about the scams than anything else.

WS got scammed. So what. It was a cheap publicity stunt (if very well thought out one) that gained Goldstein a few minutes of publicity. Hate WS for whatever reason you want, but this scam should not be the basis.

Aug 25, 2008
Le Den in Wine

Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence ...

I have more problem with Goldstein than Spectator. The entry rules are very clear and yes, if you have the time and money to create a list that meets the rules, you get an award.

But isn't that what most are looking for? A list that has met certain criteria. Its not an absolute guarantee of every wine being the hold grail.

This isn't a competition where the winner bought the prize, its recognition for putting time and effort into providing the guest with a good wine program. Goldstein had to put a lot of work into scamming the magazine. I would feel differently if all he did was create a fake list, menus etc. but he set out to scam everyone to the extent of fake postings on this board to make the restaurant look real. He was saved as well because the deadline for entering is the end of January with notification in May, publication in August, so anyone looking for the fake restaurant and not finding it would be explained away that it had closed.

I use the Spectator list for reference when looking for a new restaurant. Usually there are links to the restaurant web site so I can see what they have posted on line and take the final decision as mine as to whether I reserve or not. I know that in most cases I'm not going to find the be all and end all of wine lists, but feel pretty certain I will find something that I will like if only because of the volume of choices that are needed to get one of the awards.

And frankly, no one is going to pad their list to such an extent that the public is fooled when it is so easy to report problems on line.

Goldstein is a great scammer. I doubt he is a great source of information.

Aug 24, 2008
Le Den in Wine

How to deal with a wine snob?

The clue here that some posters seem to be missing is where you say "we want to invite another couple." Obviously you like their company and want to dine with them so I assume they aren't jerks or offensive.

Best plan, IMHO, is to speak to the husband when you make the invitation and explain that he always makes wonderful wine choices, but that they sometimes tend to be out of everyone else's budget. Say you appreciate his palate, but need to put a ceiling on the bottle price so everyone else is comfortable with the final bill. If he truly knows his wines, he will be able to find something wonderful at a lower price. Do not broach this at the table....that would be rude and remember he is a friend so it should be a reasonable request and perhaps he is not aware of the cost issue for you and the other couples, but just wanting to share wonderful wine with wonderful friends.

Aug 08, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Do you get crummy table if using Opentable?

We make no distinction between OT bookings, regular web bookings and call in reservations. I do find that those who call in are more likely to leave the correct phone number and show on time than OT bookers so perhaps its fall out from bad experiences that are finding you seated by the kitchen. We also get a lot of demands from OT bookers for "only the best table," "only a quiet table" etc that often can't be provided to the satisfaction of the booking guest.

Jul 27, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

When do you expect to get "comp'ed"?

None taken. The moniker does have more to do with a misplaced sense of entitlement and lack of understanding of why things don't work the same way in the city as they do out in the burbs.

Jun 16, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

When do you expect to get "comp'ed"?

The most egregious instance of demanding a comp I have experienced was when a table of B&T managed to spill their water glasses all over themselves (no concept of keeping your hands still) and then demanding that the entire meal be comped because of the spill. I refused. They then proceded with their meal and managed to knock a glass of red wine on the guest next to them (there was nearly 2 feet of space between them, she really slapped that glass to send it flying that far). They were silent. No offer to even apologize to the other guest whom we did comp even though the restaurant was at no fault except for seating the first table to begin with.

We give a lot of comps to nice customers and will take dishes off the check if returned uneaten or there was a serious issue (Med rare sent out well done--unfortunately it happens even at the 4 star level). But the whining complaints are not suffered. Its bad for business just as it is bad to give in to a screaming brat in a toy store.

Jun 13, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Constantly altering menu items:a diner's right or peeve?

I think soupkitten has hit it on the head. These people are sad, but unfortunately very common. They can ruin the night for servers and other diners on so many levels. A waiter I used to work with called them the "unresolved childhood isses" guests.

Jun 13, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Constantly altering menu items:a diner's right or peeve?

You missed my point. The guest is making this part of their ordering ordeal without even knowing the quality of the tomotoes. Its a way of trying to elevate their importance. Its rude.

Jun 07, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Constantly altering menu items:a diner's right or peeve?

Depends. Dressing on the side is reasonable, but "Dressing on the side, no cucumbers, substitute shrimp for chicken (grilled please), no green tomatoes--only the freshest red ones........" more about the guest needing attention than a problem with the food.

More than three substitutions (without allergies involved) its about the guest, not the food.

Jun 07, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Open Table bummer.....

Thank you ccbwed, that was what I meant. We never take a reservation off the books until at least 30 minutes after the time it was booked for with the exception of non confirms which may get bumped earlier because the ratio of no-shows to non confirms is almost 90 percent.

Everyone has a cell so there is no excuse for not calling and if for some reason you arrive much later than your original time, we will fit you in, but I can't leave a table sitting empty for an hour on the chance you might be late rather than not coming.

As a side note, I never use OT to book reservations for myself. I always call as I find I have a better chance of getting a table at a convenient time than with OT.

Jun 07, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Hostess tried to return my cake?

Very well said onthelam. Answer here is: If the host says, "Bring nothing." Then bring nothing.

Sometimes being a good friend, is letting someone else be generous.

May 07, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Open Table bummer.....

We use OT here in NYC with various results, some the problem are OT, many the problem of the person booking on line and sometimes the problem of staff.

1. We allow 30 minutes before we no-show a table. If you booked on line and are more than 30 minutes late without calling to notify us, you get the email. Many times a table has been no-showed and then appeared for their meal because they didn't let us know they were running late.

2. Identify yourself at the door so we know you arrived.

3. Respond to the confirmation call. We call the day of and if we don't hear from you, you may be bumped earlier than the 30 minute window.

4. Ask your dining companions if any of them made the same reservation---one of you will get the email if you don't let us know and this happens a lot.

5. Notes about birthdays, allergies etc are always appreciated. Notes requesting special tables can't always be accomodated.

6. If you are attending a special event at the restaurant (a wine dinner, caberet performance etc.) please note this in the reservation notes.

7. If OT only lists a table availability for 4, don't book if you have more guests than that.

8. If booking on line, do yourself the favor of checking out the restaurant's web-site so you actually know about their menu and style. Read the blurbs, don't just look at the pictures. If the restaurant doesn't call itself kosher, it probably isn't and no, a rabbi isn't on call to certify the kitchen on demand.

Every night, at least 5 reservations get the email because they didn't show, didn't call. At least 15 will call and cancel---which is noted automatically in your OT records. Frequent no-shows mean less chance of being seated on time because we expect you to not show and give the tables to either new guests or those who never no-show first.

Your best bet to get the table you want, is to call the restaurant directly, confirm your reservation and honor it as originally agreed. If you use OT, do not consider it the last thing you need to do. Follow up with a confirmation call and be on time or at least let the restaurant know you are running late.

May 03, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Bringing your own (Kosher) food into a restaurant

The party should have called ahead to ask permission. Bringing outside food into a restaurant is illegal in some instances (if the guest gets sick or someone else who had eaten the food gets sick, who is culpable?). As other posters have noted, the restaurant should have been gracious in arranging a kosher meal to be delivered from a kosher restaurant (if there are kosher citizens, there are facilities for kosher delivery) and the guest offered whatever she did or did not need. This is the norm in cities where Kosher guests are common.

There should be no reason to attack her religion or force her to sit with nothing while other guests enjoyed themselves.

Apr 22, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food


What a great posting. Thank you.

Apr 21, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Dovetail Walk-Out

To the OP: When the host asked you to wait at the bar you chose to wait somewhere else, probably in a traffic lane which inconvenienced other diners (no one asks guests to wait where they will be in the way, but guests often choose those spots specifically to be a problem and get seated quicker--sort of like threatening to hold your breath until you pass out). This spells difficult customer and they seated you asap at the first table available and away from the majority of guests because they expected trouble. You fullfilled their expectations.

And once seated, why not move your chairs closer together?

In all my years in the restaurant industry, I have never had guests complain about a table being too large. Too small, yes...but never too large.

Apr 19, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Marriage proposal at restaurants... [moved from SF Bay]

Bad idea for several reasons:
1. Cost--the more particular you get the more expensive it can become.
2. Its public--which kills any intimacy.
3. Its public--she may feel trapped into saying yes.
4. Its public--she may say no.
5. If there are problems with the dining experience, it could dampen the event.
6. It never works the way you want it too because no one else is on the same script as you.

Apr 18, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Clearly you need this more then I do....

This seems easy. If you are paying for each round, credit card or cash, you tip on each round. If you are running a tab, you tip at the end.

The bartender is going to assume you never tip if you don't tip on a round you are paying for and will probably make you wait for you next drink while they take care of the customers who are paying their rent. Its simple logic.

At my very busy bar, the customers who tip well are usually the best customers as well so I encourage my staff to take care of the tippers first.

When I am in a bar, I find that by leaving a good tip on the first round, I get better service through the night and preferencial service the next time I come in.

(I would never allow my staff to say any of the things the OP mentions however, just serve the bad tippers last)

Mar 09, 2008
Le Den in Not About Food

Tipping BEFORE the meal - what would you have done?

Sounds very badly organized. The event should have been contracted so that the tax and tip were disclosed in advance to potential guests (if it was to be added, it should have been a standard percentage, like with a dinner theater or large party), or included in the price quoted. I'm in the business and probably would have done exactly as you did.

As for tipping bartenders, coat check etc at should never be expected and I don't allow my staff to prominently display a tip jar or give any sort of attitude that makes the guest feel like they are expected to tip. We have contracted the grat with the host so that they are well taken care of.

But I'm not going to stop a guest from tipping staff if they want. I tip everyone when I am a guest even though I know they have already been taken care of and I always leave extra on top of the contracted amount when I have hosted. It's not always a lot, $10 or so at the end of the night to the bar, a 5er to coatcheck or a couple hundred on top of the party if I'm paying it all. It's the thought that counts more than anything.

Dec 19, 2007
Le Den in Not About Food

Is a little Christmas gift appropriate for our favorite server?

Absolutely. And don't sweat what the gift is as its the thought that counts (but don't be cheap--if money, $50 should be a minimum, if a gift, $20.). Management usually don't mind when servers receive gifts from regulars. I'm sure both servers would be thrilled. (I would however, make their gifts equal. Steve doesn't give you less service than Jane, just serves you less often.)

Dec 08, 2007
Le Den in Not About Food

Incorrect information

How do I get incorrect information (prices, addresses etc) corrected for a business listing?

Nov 06, 2007
Le Den in Site Talk

Does the cook get offended when food comes back uneaten?

Every plate, no matter how busy we are, is shown to the chef on its way back into the kitchen as on the way out. The servers know they should have a ready (honest) answer to give if there is food left.

Oct 27, 2007
Le Den in Not About Food

Wine Mark Up

Why never buy wine there again? $4.50 is a terrific price for a glass of wine (here in NYC the average price is upwards of $8 or better for the cheapest glass of anything drinkable). Just because they buy in quantity does not lessen the quality of the wine they serve which would be a reasonable reason for not buying there.

Oct 25, 2007
Le Den in Not About Food

Mini Casa Mono Review- Thanks

Service has always been an issue. Either very good or very bad. At the moment, the GM is out on materinty leave and things are particularly bad. I still go to eat, just bite my tongue until things get back to normal.

Oct 23, 2007
Le Den in Manhattan

Wined Up?

Food, last time I was there was pretty mediocre. Wine list is good and fairly priced. Space is beautiful and staff was very nice with good service. The woman who manages the place is particularly helpful as is the owner. Go and enjoy.

Jul 20, 2007
Le Den in Manhattan

Aquagrill or Blue Water Grill?

Aquagrill is the best choice, but avoid oysters, they can take forever (the shucker is more intererested in the game than serving customers).

Jun 12, 2007
Le Den in Manhattan